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Puff, Pass & Ponder: Becoming Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable

I have traditionally not been a person who does well when situations are in a state of flux. For most of my life, I was one of those people who was constantly chasing happiness and peace with the next job, the next dollar, the next move, or the next relationship. I’ve operated under the false pretense that I would finally be at peace when that unfortunate situation is figured out, or that pesky problem is resolved. It’s taken me nearly five years in the cannabis industry to realize the very unsettling truth that comfort and security in this line of work simply don’t exist– and in some ways, they probably shouldn’t.

Perhaps when people outside of the cannabis industry consider legalization, in places where it is now recreational, they think something akin to “the job here is done”, at least in those 9 rec states. The truth of the matter is that this is a constantly changing industry, and while more states continue to look at legalization, both recreational and medical, every year, regulations within even recreationally legal states are constantly being flipped, sometimes on a day to day basis. A company can be operating completely legally according to their local and state government, and 24 hours later, not be able to sell product or provide even ancillary services, even if they aren’t actually touching cannabis itself.

The recreational cannabis industry began in Denver in January of 2014, and Colorado has always had the claim to fame and therefore the assumptive arrogance of being “first”, despite the fact that California had a medical cannabis program that had been going strong since 1996. In less than 5 years, 9 total states (and DC) have legalized recreationally, with 30 having varying degrees of a medical cannabis program. In being a part of this industry, the one thing that has been an absolute constant to me is the fact that rules and regulations— what I’m supposed to be doing, what I’m able to do, what I’m supposed to be telling our customers and guests that they can and cannot do— is changing often and significantly, sometimes on the daily. I was explaining this to a date last night, and he remarked that it must be pretty stressful. I meditate a lot, I said. Also I smoke a lot and require daily edibles. Meditation is a much better option for me than my previous solution, which was endlessly wailing “why is this happening?” to the heavens while wringing my hands in despair.

Public versus private consumption and cannabis-friendly events have, since the beginning, been one of the areas that any and every state has yet to figure out, with this offering the most “grey area” that no longer remains grey area when a state, county, or city decides that they want to crack down on a business that has been doing its best to operate legally to the standards that have been set for it. Emergency regulations for edibles, flower, and concentrates in California were just rolled out, giving companies only 2 weeks to completely change their operations and packaging. As a result, millions of pounds of cannabis product in CA became not eligible for sale (and was marked for destruction) as of July 1st, leaving dispensaries with empty shelves, and producers with no legal product to sell. People panicked. The industry scrambled. Some businesses folded.

As a result of these constantly changing regulations, companies are often left with no foothold for income. The businesses that have thus far been able to remain operating are those that are able to roll with the changing tide, finding new ways and new “grey area” to operate within, but unfortunately the amount of flexibility required is unrealistic and for many businesses, unattainable. I understand that since it is a relatively new industry that initial laws will need to be tweaked and continue to evolve for the purposes of health, safety, ease, and finances, but in the current state, emergency regs are often putting these otherwise completely legal businesses in absolutely dire straits, when they’ve been doing their best to operate legally according to the guidelines that were initially set for them.

An area that we shouldn’t, and absolutely cannot allow ourselves to get comfortable with, is social justice surrounding cannabis-related non-violent offenses and prison sentences. Although the stigma surrounding cannabis has changed a great deal in the last 5 years, most states with recreational programs have NOT expunged the records of prison inmates serving extended time for non-violent drug related offenses. Sure, the cannabis industry is on a pathway to success, and we’re in a much better spot than we were a year ago, 5 years ago, certainly 10-20 years ago. However, there is a lot of work to be done, both within the industry in regards to regulations created by lawmakers, and outside of the industry when it comes to fighting the stigma of the plant and the social justice issues surrounding it, and people of color have traditionally been the bearers of this load from the drug war. It’s important to remember that while the situation improves nearly every day, and it’s easy to think that we’re on a path to national legalization, there is still a great deal of work to be done, both within the industry’s framework, and outside of it while we continue to fight reefer madness.

To read more musings to make you ponder, click here.


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